Monday, November 21, 2011

Korg Polyphonic Ensembles S and P "Most realistic sound under the thumb" ad, Contemporary Keyboard 1977

Korg Polyphonic Ensembles S and P "Most realistic sound under the thumb" 2/3-page advertisement from page 43 in Contemporary Keyboard July 1977.

I've been on a Korg kick for the last few posts with the DL-50 Delta and the Korg accessories posts. And while doing a bit of research I was flipping through older issues of CK when this ad caught my eye.

Does it look familiar? Then you have apparently become a bit of a Unicord ad fanatic. And you probably appreciate the lengths to which Unicord went to make sure that they kept some level of consistency with their early CK ad.

Six months before this ad appeared, Unicord included this 2/3-page Maxi-Korg K-3 advertisement in the January issue.

The latest Polyphonic Ensembles ad is different enough that even if the reader remembered the first Unicord ad from six months ago, he or she wouldn't have ignored it figuring it was the same ad. But its a great next iteration of that earlier ad with a number of similarities.

The repeating white "Korg" background with one grey stand-out immediately catches the eye - especially when you consider that this 2/3 ad runs next to a single column of text. The reworked pattern design works perfectly with the addition of an extra photo for the second instrument, and the additional ad-copy required.

The ad-title is also located in a similar position to the first ad, and although the "realistic sound under the thumb" is unmemorable and sounds awkward to me, I get what they are trying to say - "under your control". Ad-copy is similarly unmemorable, but provide a good overview of the two instruments, highlighting certain features of each.

The logo section, on the other hand, makes me extremely happy when compared to the earlier ad. The new ad got rid of that third level of corporate self-absorbed BS by removing the confusing "Gulf + Western Manufacturing Company" logo and tagline, and replaced it with a larger "Unicord, Inc" mark, as well as giving us Canadian readers a bit of acknowledgement by including "Sold in Canada by Erikson Music Ltd., Montreal".

The two ads have something else in common too. The Korg instruments they promote were given different names in North American and across the pond in the UK.

In the case of the Maxi-Korg ad, the instrument was also known as the Univox K-3 around these parts - or, as I eventually decided to call it - the 'Univox Korg Maxi-Korg K-3 distributed by Unicord', but in UK ads it was referred to as simly the 800 DV. Definitely not as cool a name - or logo if you look closely at the Maxi-Korg photo in the earlier ad. Very retro.

In the case of the Polyphonic "P" and Polyphonic "S", apparently they were also known as Univox K4 and K5, and early UK ads in International Musician referred to them as the Polyphonic Ensemble 1000 and Polyphonic Ensemble "Orchestra" 2000, later simplified to the Poly 1000 and Poly 2000. More on those UK ads in the very near future.

Finally, you will notice that the scan I posted is kind of unbalanced, with a lot of dead space on the right hand side of the page. I just wanted to point out how much I hate when there is too much space between the ad border and the edge of the page. Gah! That bugs me. :)

Anyways, readers of Contemporary Keyboard would have run into a "teaser" for the two machines four months earlier when a few of the features popped up in the Spec Sheet section of the March 1977 issue.
"Korg Polyphonic Ensembles. Two new polyphonic keyboard instruments from Unicord are the Ensemble P and Ensemble S. The Model P incorporates presets of known percussive instruments such as acoustic and electric piano, clavichord, and so on. All preset selections are colored by the use of a high- and low-pass filter bank that can be remote-controlled with a foot pedal. An ADS envelope generator is provided, and a waveform selector supplies a variety of tonal effects. The Model S has preset sounds of pipe organ chorus, brass, and strings. A high- and low-ass filter bank and an AS envelope generator are supplied. Unicord, 75 Frost St. Westbury, NY 11590.
I also found a review of the "PE 2000" in an issue of International Musician that I plan to read over in the next couple of days and if I find any interesting points I'll be sure to pull 'em into a blog post. 

Thankfully today, it is much easier to find information on these two beasts online. For example, the most excellent Korg 40th anniversary article in Sound On Sound titled "40 Years Of Korg Gear: The History Of Korg - Part 1" included two paragraphs on the machines.
"The PE1000 was, in essence, a 61-note electronic piano with seven voices differentiated by preset values of the Traveler and envelope. Some control was available, but with a single oscillator per note, no touch-sensitivity, and just a single filter and envelope for the whole keyboard, it was very limited. Nonetheless, the PE1000 was soon to be seen in some respected company; Vangelis used one, as did Jean-Michel Jarre.

The 48-note PE2000 was a traditional string synth, with a richer sound produced by eight organ, brass, chorus and string presets. With a claimed three oscillators per note (or, more likely, three delayed and detuned versions of a single oscillator) and an integral phaser, it soon made friends among the keyboard cognoscenti of the day, including Tangerine Dream, Jean-Michel Jarre, and Hawkwind."
The article goes on to state that Korg President Keio promoted the two as a pair since the sounds they created complimented each other - one for percussive (hence the "P") sounds the other for sustained ("S") sounds. The chosen names of the instruments in the UK (1000 and 2000) don't really explain this aspect very well. And over in North America where the names "P" and "S" are a little more explanatory, I still find it surprising that the ad or the Spec Sheet don't explain the "P" and "S" labels more clearly. Maybe its just me that didn't get the association at first. That wouldn't surprise me.

Till Kopper also has a page dedicated to each instrument on his Web site. Both the Polyphonic Ensemble 1000 and Polyphonic Ensemble 2000 pages include reference information, specs and sound examples, as well as great photos - outside and inside the instrument. 

A lot more images and info are available in Google searches - MATRIXSYNTH in particular has some great auction photos. Definitely check 'em out.

The two instruments were promoted a lot more in the UK around this time period and I have a few great ad scans coming up in the next couple of posts. Stay tuned!

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